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ASSANGE: BUTTONS PRESSED August 17, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Human Rights.
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Ecuador has granted political asylum to Julian Assange.

Green Senator, Scott Ludlam, has given a doorstop statement, noting that the Ecuadoran Government has given due diligence, and notes the failure of the Australian Government to provide appropriate support.  The Australia Government seems to have forgotten any role as a moral in the world.

Kevin Gosztola provides a translation of a part of the Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Trade and Integration statement:

…the Government of Ecuador, true to its tradition of protecting those who seek refuge in its territory or on the premises of diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to citizen’s Assange, based on the application submitted to the President of the Republic, by written communication, dated London, June 19, 2012, and supplemented by letter dated at London on June 25, 2012, for which the Government of Ecuador, after a fair and objective assessment of the situation described by Mr. Assange, according to their own words and arguments, endorsed the fears of the appellant, and assumes that there are indications that it may be presumed that there may be political persecution, or could occur such persecution if measures are not taken timely and necessary to avoid it…

The full statement is available in English translation (somewhat imperfect) but the meaning can be deduced.

Glenn Greenwald has provided the important qualifying condition:(via Twitter)

Every article on this should include that Ecuador offered: Assange will go to Stockholm tomorrow if no extradition to the US- Sweden refused.

Just to clarify, Glenn Greenwald has tweeted:

Assange repeatedly offered 1) to be questioned by Swedes in UK; 2) to go to Sweden if no extradition to US on espionage charges.

So if this just about the allegations, why is the Swedish Government refusing  to guarantee Assange against extradition to a third country, and why does not the UK insist on that condition?  So what might be the alternative explanation, that I can’t think of?  RT reviewed the situation a few days ago:


The British Foreign Office has refused to change its’ position after expressing disappointment(via Twitter):

Foreign Office (FCO) ‏@foreignoffice
We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian Government’s decision this afternoon does not change that. #Assange
Retweeted by WikiLeaks

Foreign Office (FCO) ‏@foreignoffice
Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal UK authorities are under binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden
Retweeted by WikiLeaks

The British Goverment’s response to the Asylum request from Ecuador seems disproportional, extreme and bizarre.

ABC News reports (via PM):

The British Foreign Office says it is too early to say when or if it will revoke the Ecuadorian embassy’s diplomatic status in an effort to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Mr Assange is holed up in the embassy in London after claiming asylum there back in June, and Ecuador is hours away from announcing its decision on whether to grant him further protection.

Reporting from outside the Ecuadorian embassy, ABC London correspondent Philip Williams says the British threat to arrest Mr Assange has severely strained ties between London and Quito.

“Clearly the British government doesn’t want to go to those lengths,” Williams said.

“Perhaps they’re using it as a threat, but all the same the Ecuadorian government is offended by that.

“They say they have been trying to negotiate an end to this and they see that as a very hostile act by Britain.”

According to Crickey:

Such is Assange’s capacity to generate hysteria even without doing anything.

He also, it appears, has a remarkable capacity to punch the buttons of governments. The Swedish government, despite being willing to travel overseas to interview suspects in other cases, has declined to do so with Assange despite repeated offers, creating the impression its only interest is in getting him into custody. The US Vice-President jeopardised any eventual US prosecution of Assange by calling him “a high-tech terrorist”. The Australian government, which falsely claimed WikiLeaks had acted illegally, has been wilfully blind about the case, refusing to ask obvious questions of the US about its long-running investigations and grand jury processes about Assange.

Not surprising he’s now precipitated a diplomatic misstep from the UK government.

The Stop the War Coalition – Sydney has a fuller representation of the situation, which might contrast with the narrow legal opinion proffered on the BBC:

Cassie Findlay, spokesperson for Support Assange and WikiLeaks Coalition, Sydney, said today:

“This is outrageous behaviour by the UK police and British government. No-one can pretend this is about taking a man in for questioning about sexual assault allegations. Would this be happening if Julian Assange was not the founder of WikiLeaks? It cannot be a coincidence that this escalation of punitive action by the UK authorities has taken place when Ecuador is about to announce its decision about granting asylum. Should we not also connect it to the revelations about Trapwire released by WikiLeaks last week and the subsequent massive denial of service attack on the WikiLeaks sites?” she asked.

Julian Assange was forced to seek refuge in Ecuador in June after the Australian government effectively abandoned his case, refusing to make diplomatic representations on his behalf to the Swedish or British governments when his UK Supreme Court appeal was rejected. The rejection of the appeal meant that he could be extradited to Sweden within 10 days.

Assange’s supporters fear that the extradition to Sweden is simply a mechanism to facilitate extradition to the United States, where a secret grand jury has prepared an indictment against him for espionage. Despite the Australian government’s persistent denials of any knowledge of the grand jury, it has been referred to in the court hearings dealing with the charges against the alleged whistleblower, Private Bradley Manning.

The RT commentator sidesteps the issue of the allegations, or are they implied charges now by the Swedish prosecutor, arguing that Latin America will not accept British threats against Ecuadorean sovereignty.

In The Guardian, Mark Weisbrot writes that while predictable, the case is “ground-breaking” with “considerable historical significance”:

First, the merits of the case: Assange clearly has a well-founded fear of persecution if he were to be extradited to Sweden. It is pretty much acknowledged that he would be immediately thrown in jail. Since he is not charged with any crime, and the Swedish government has no legitimate reason to bring him to Sweden, this by itself is a form of persecution.

We can infer that the Swedes have no legitimate reason for the extradition, since they were repeatedly offered the opportunity to question him in the UK, but rejected it, and have also refused to even put forth a reason for this refusal. A few weeks ago the Ecuadorian government offered to allow Assange to be questioned in its London embassy, where Assange has been residing since 19 June, but the Swedish government refused – again without offering a reason. This was an act of bad faith in the negotiating process that has taken place between governments to resolve the situation.

Former Stockholm chief district prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem also made it clear that the Swedish government had no legitimate reason to seek Assange’s extradition when he testified that the decision of the Swedish government to extradite Assange is “unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate”, because he could be easily questioned in the UK.

But, most importantly, the government of Ecuador agreed with Assange that he had a reasonable fear of a second extradition to the United States, and persecution here for his activities as a journalist. The evidence for this was strong. Some examples: an ongoing investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks in the US; evidence that an indictment had already been prepared; statements by important public officials such as Democratic senator Diane Feinstein that he should be prosecuted for espionage, which carries a potential death penalty or life imprisonment.

Why is this case so significant? It is probably the first time that a citizen fleeing political persecution by the US has been granted political asylum by a democratic government seeking to uphold international human rights conventions. This is a pretty big deal, because for more than 60 years the US has portrayed itself as a proponent of human rights internationally – especially during the cold war. And many people have sought and received asylum in the US.

The idea of the US government as a human rights defender, which was believed mostly in the US and allied countries, was premised on a disregard for the human rights of the victims of US wars and foreign policy, such as the 3 million Vietnamese or more than one million Iraqis who were killed, and millions of others displaced, wounded, or abused because of US actions. That idea – that the US should be judged only on what it does within its borders – is losing support as the world grows more multipolar economically and politically, Washington loses power and influence, and its wars, invasions, and occupations are seen by fewer people as legitimate.

At the same time, over the past decade, the US’s own human rights situation has deteriorated. . .

Meanwhile, The New York Times has a weird sense of humour, making fun of itself as a serious journalistic outlet.

ELSEWHERE:

Human rights abuses in Bahrain continue, without attracting widespread attention. Nabeel Rajab appeared on the BBC’s Hard Talk:

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